How to roast a whole pigeon

How to roast a whole pigeon

How to roast a whole pigeon

Once roasted, the sweet juices and crisp skin of a pigeon is absolutely unmissable - perfect for a rustic, gamey Sunday roast. Their petit size also means that diners get a whole bird to themselves - a thoroughly impressive touch.

The best pigeons for roasting are young birds. As squab (farmed) pigeon are never any older than 1 month old, it’s best to buy these, unless your game merchant can guarantee that wild birds being sold are young (younger wild birds tend to have paler flesh - also look out for birds with a good layer of fat under the skin).


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
Wash the pigeon, checking that the cavity is particularly well rinsed. Pat dry with kitchen paper
Place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat and add a dash of oil
Season the pigeon and place breast-side down into the pan, then turn to sear evenly and achieve a golden colour all over
Sit the bird breast-side up, transfer to a roasting tin and place in the oven. Roast for 10-12 minutes to achieve pink meat, or cook for a further 2-4 minutes for well-done (don’t forget to baste the bird halfway through)
Remove and allow to rest for at least another 5 minutes


Flavour can be added by stuffing the cavity with traditional stuffing or simply a mixture of herbs, mushrooms or even black pudding. Breast meat tends to dry out more quickly than the legs during roasting, so try laying some bacon rashers over the breast or smothering over some butter. Alternatively, try spatchcocking the pigeon before roasting to help to evenly cook the bird.

While the pigeon is resting, don’t discard the pan juices found in the roasting tin. These can be deglazed to form a rich, flavoursome sauce to accompany the dish - Bryan Webb uses pan juices in his Madeira and brandy sauce. You can discover more ways to cook a whole pigeon on our how to cook guide.

What pigeon goes with

Adam Gray serves roast pigeon with a light celeriac salad. The earthy but sweet flavours of celeriac flatter and lighten the meaty flavour, making a perfect starter. For a more hearty, comforting meal, simply serve the pigeon with some redcurrant jelly, pan juices and roasted vegetables.